3 Things to keep in mind about Family Vacation Photos or Videos

When I spend thousands of dollars and weeks of planning on a family vacation, I make sure I have photos to remember these memories. I anticipate many years from now, my grown child may be in a therapist office complaining about a neglected childhood, and I’ll have photos and videos to prove otherwise!

Vacation Family Photo Tips1. Take photos of people, not things. Now that I work in a video transfer store, where I see families’ vacation photos and videos decades after they were shot, it gives me insights into what really are valuable photo and video shots that will be cherished twenty-thirty years later and what is fluff, inconsequential. For example, your first sight of the Eiffel Tower may inspire you to take hundreds of photos of the magnificent landmark from multiple angles. But the Eiffel Tower is not going anywhere, is unlikely to look different years from now.  So only take a photo of the Tower if you or your kids are in the photo as well.  

Gayle, a customer who had boxes of carousel of slides to transfer to digital images told us how she hired a neighborhood kid to go through the slides to put aside all the ones without any faces. She would invest money digitizing the ones with faces, but not the ones without.  Most of us take digital photos now so there’s a low cost to snapping away freely.  Still, when it comes to preserving memories, think faces, people, over inanimate things.

2. Make something out of the photos – a photobook, a highlight video montage. Many of us have thousands of digital photos filed away in bits and bytes on our computers. The massiveness of them – repeats, poor shots, shots of things that interested us then but not now – keep us from enjoying them. I take the best of the best photos and create a photobook, and also a highlight video montage. It’s so much more enjoyable going through a 3 minute video memories of Paris 2007, then to go through hundreds of photos. Services like ScatteredPictures.com will take your vacation photos and turn them into a professional-looking keepsake video montage.

3. Make it easy. Unless you plan to take one vacation your whole life, make the process of preserving vacation memories easy. If you are doing it yourself, stay with simple software like animoto.com  that you don’t need to relearn each time, but can produce a pleasing finished product. If you can afford it, do the hard job of selecting the best photos that capture your vacation experience, then hand them off to a professional to turn into a photo book or a music highlight video montage. You want to end up with a library of photobooks, or video montage DVDs of your vacations, not with a much overdue lists of post-vacation must-dos that give you guilt instead of joy.

One important tip: Make sure to include yourself in your family vacation photos.  Many adults, me included, wish they saw more of the parents in the old family photos and videos, and not just of kids.  After all, how are you going to prove to your child (and the therapist) that you were there too, and you didn’t just put them on a bus.

 

Photos, VHS, Film to Digital – 5 Memory Gift Ideas for Father’s Day

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With Father’s Day coming up soon, I bet you’re wondering what is the best way to show Dad how much you appreciate and care about him. This year, don’t get another tie for his collection. Do something special for Dad and give him the gift of memories. It is sure to be a gift to be remembered forever.

Here are 5 ways to give the gift of memories this year for Father’s Day:

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1. Convert home movies to DVD - Somewhere in Dad’s closet is his pile of VHS tapes of all his most valued memories. However, less and less people have working VCRs anymore. Also, what Dad may not know is that it’s not doing the tapes any good to be stored for too long. VHS tapes have a shelf life and slowly degrade over time, even if the tape is only 10 years old. This year for Father’s Day, what better way to show Dad how much you love him then by converting his old tapes onto DVDs. He will now be able to easily enjoy the DVDs with family and will know that the footage is saved from degrading any further.

2. Converting old photos to digital - Along with Dad’s collection of VHS tapes, there most likely is a huge collection of old photos that takes up more and more space over the years. Whether the photos are stored in big albums, or kept loosely in shoe boxes, it can be stressful and simply not fun to deal with. Luckily, there is a much better option to this that will let Dad enjoy every photograph completely stress-free. By digitizing Dad’s old photo collection, you have many different and unique options on what to do with them. You can make a slideshow that plays through the photos with Dad’s favorite songs playing in the background, put them on a digital photo frame for all to enjoy or even have a coffee table book published with all of Dad’s favorite photos printed beautifully together.

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3. Photo restoration - Photographs are a very fragile thing and can be easily damaged especially the ones that were taken many years ago. Photos will fade, stain, and rip. What if Dad’s favorite family photo has been damaged? Don’t give up on the photo and throw it away. Photo restoration technology will let you take a damaged photograph and breathe life into it and make it like new again. It can be electronically stitched back together if ripped into 5 pieces, restore its original colors if faded, or have stains removed if stained. Imagine what Dad’s face would look like if you took Dad’s favorite photo he has given up on and had it digitally restored, printed and framed.

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4. Digitizing Dad’s favorite vinyl record to CD -

Although many records are now distributed on disc format, there is the occasional LP that is unavailable on any upgraded format. This can be stressful to Dad every time he wants to enjoy his favorite songs because he must set up all the equipment to play the record. By digitizing to CD, he can easily enjoy his favorite music in his car and at home without that bulky equipment and oversized record.

5. Transfer Dad’s old media to a hard drive - DVD’s are perfect for watching or making copies for loved ones but what if Dad wants to do more with his old media. By transferring to an external hard drive, his possibilities are endless. You can store photos, slides, film and audio files in a very accessible and organized way. After that, using different types of programs, you are able to edit the material to whichever way you’d like. You can make different cut points to make a certain section of a tape or film its own file, add music, burn DVDs of the footage you choose, and even send small files to friends all over the world. You can even put all the different types of media together and create a beautiful slide show using film footage, slides and add background music of the audio cassette you digitized. Even though Dad may not be familiar with using editing software, who knows, it could end up being his new favorite hobby!

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Dad will be sure to love any of these ideas, and will be able to enjoy it for many years to come. This year, don’t add to Dad’s tie collection. Give him the gift of memories.

Thousands of Photos Scanned to Digital, Then What?

When you have a favorite photo to share, you can turn it into a poster board, a canvas bag, personalized greeting cards.  What if you have hundreds or thousands of photos to share? After all, the reason you dug out your aging photo albums and shoe boxes of photos out of the closet and scan those photos to digital images is so you can view and share those old memories easily.

Below are 3 easy ways to share those years of happy memories:

1. Digital Photo Frame – These frames used to cost hundreds of dollars.  Now, you can find large 15-inch digital photo frames for $100 or less.   8-inch frames can be had for less than $50.  You can get plain frames that just displays your photos or sophisticated ones that also play videos, have motion sensors, turns into digital clocks when no one’s close by.

2. Photo sharing sites online – You can’t email hundreds of photos to your cousins across the country, but you can upload the photos online, then share a link to your online photo library.  Some of the popular online photo sites are: ShutterflyFlickrSnapfish, and Photobucket.  Your family from anywhere in the world can view the photos, even order prints.

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3. Photo books – There are many online photo book creators.  If you have a lot of photos, like hundreds, the one I recommend is Blurb.com for pricing.  Pricing is similar when you are making a 20-page book.  But when you go up to 100 pages, Blurb.com remains affordable ($48 for hardcover, additional pages is 20 cents).  A page can fit anywhere from 1 to 10 photos.  $48 gets you a coffee table book to display hundreds of photos, now that’s a good deal!

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Recently, Shutterfly bought out Mypublisher, a popular photo book publisher.  I expect the integration between your online photo library and producing a hard coffee photo book will become even easier.

There really is no excuse for you to hoard your family’s treasure of photos in the dark closet.  Bring them out into the sun, get your photos scanned to digital images and share them with your friends and family using any of the suggestions above.

 

Customer Story: Photos in the Kitchen Wall

Linda, one of our repeat customers, found some family photos in a very unique way—inside of someone else’s kitchen wall. They went on quite a journey to get to her, and once she got them, they still had a ways to go!

Her mother’s family home was out west, and the family had long since sold it and scattered when the new owners decided it was time for some kitchen renovation. After knocking down a wall, they looked inside the wall to find, to their surprise, a stack of very old negatives. Luckily for Linda, the new owners decided to track down the original residents of the house and get those lost family photos back to them!

Then began the real work on their part. They started at their town hall, where they found records and information about previous owners of the house. A few generations had passed since Linda’s family had lived in the home, and her mother had gotten married and changed her name since her parents owned that house, but luckily she had some brothers who had kept the family name alive! The new owners tracked down one of Linda’s uncles and sent the stack of antique photos to him.

When Linda’s family got them back, they found that storing negatives in the kitchen wall left them open to all kinds of damage, but it seems that their string of good luck had not run out. Though some had faded or been damaged irrevocably, many of images were salvageable. They were taken using very old photographic equipment, and so they were not a standard size (well, not a standard size these days!) so we scanned the photos on a flatbed scanner to get the whole image, and then reversed the image. From there, some of the negatives just needed a little touching up. Some, however, will require extensive photo restoration.

Here are two of the negatives, and the images as restored at Play it Again Video:

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VHS to DVD – Can I turn that “Casablanca” VHS Tape to DVD?

Most customers bring in their VHS tapes of their own personal memories and experiences. Weddings, family gatherings, their kids playing and learning together, just to name a few. Every so often, we will get an occasional customer who wants to digitize a commercial, Hollywood movie. They love the movie and want to continue watching it, but like many people nowadays, don’t own a VCR anymore.

So the big question is, is it legal to copy this type of commercial VHS tape to a DVD? If the answer “Yes” applies to all 3 criteria below, then it is 100% legal to digitize the VHS.

1. The VHS is not available on DVD. By this point a majority of well known movies are available on DVD. However, every so often you will find one that has not been converted and distributed on digital formats yet. There is a variety of reasons as to why. Maybe the movie is lesser known, or there hasn’t been a huge demand for the DVD version. Regardless, it is important to search online and offline to see if it is available. For example, did you know that Casablanca is not only available on DVD but comes in different versions that each have unique features such as a black and white version, a color version and a 70th anniversary version. Any of these versions could be found in the $20 price range, which is around how much you’d actually pay to transfer the VHS to DVD. For that same price, you’ll be getting the full studio-mastered DVD production with its graphic case insert.

Casablanca, and many other Hollywood films are already available on DVD

2. You actually own the VHS and you didn’t borrow it from a friend, taken if out of a library or borrowed it from the school you go to. The ‘Fair Use’ provision states that if you personally pay for something, you have the right to continue using it. Simply put, since technology has changed, and there are a limited number of VCR players available, you rightfully have the choice to change with technology so that you can continue viewing what you originally paid good money for.

3. You have decided to digitize your VHS tape for either personal or educational use. You’re not planning on turning your VHS tape of “Citizen Kane” or “Ben Hur” to DVD so you can sell it on eBay are you? That’s illegal and the main reason we can only make one DVD copy of your tape.
If you have answered “Yes” to all three conditions listed above, bring your tape over to us. Get your tapes digitized because VHS tapes degrade and become unwatchable.

Take a look at our official VHS to DVD copyright policy, you may find it helpful.

If you have any further questions about digitizing your tapes, feel free to give us a call at 617-332-3300. We look forward to hearing from you.

Photos to Digital – Photo Scanning Resolution Matters

When you decide to digitize your photos, there are a few options to consider first. Different types of photo scanners offer unique features which produce different results. It is important to understand them before you drop your pictures off at the Photo Scanning Center so that you get the scan quality that you want.

Using a scanner that is dedicated to scanning photos makes a huge difference. Do not purchase or use a document scanner that you may find at a Staples or other office supplies stores. These are usually used for scanning black and white text documents. A dedicated photo scanner will allow you to capture your photographs in their original detail and vibrant colors and will allow you to chose different scanning resolutions which will affect the overall quality and sharpness of the photo.

Each resolution is appropriate for different situations and intended use. The specific resolution you are using refers to the digitized photo’s DPI (Dots Per Inch). The DPI indicates the amount of pixels found on the digitized photos per inch. The higher the DPI, the more pixels in the image, and resulting in a bigger file size. More pixels give a more detailed image.

These are some of the most common DPI settings. At the low end of resolution and quality is 72 DPI. This resolution is suitable for online viewing. It results in a very small sized photo which is beneficial for sharing online with friends or sending through email but not for printing.

The next step up, 300 DPI, is used when you are printing your photos. Although printing is capable at this level, it still may not be as sharp as you’re hoping for.
600 DPI is also used for printing, but at a much clearer and detailed resolution. This is the standard for printing photos and suitable for enlargement. Photo labs typically charge extra for scanning at resolution because the process takes longer, but it’s worth it. Here at Play It Again Video, 600 is our default scanning resolution and we don’t charge extra for it.

The last commonly used resolution, but far from the maximum is 1,200 DPI. This is usually used for pieces of art made by professional artists. Any type of historic material like an old family document might be scanned at this highly detailed level.

Before you drop off your photos to be scanned, think about the different choices and which resolution fits best with the outcome you are trying to achieve. It is important that you choose at least 300 DPI, but preferably 600 to get a sharp and clear result. The most important thing to find out from the scanning center is that they are using a dedicated photo scanner instead of an auto-feed document scanner.

VHS to Digital – How to get rid of old VHS tapes after transferring to DVD

After you transfer your VHS tapes to DVD or to computer files, what to do with those space-consuming boxes of old video tapes?Most of our customers digitize their VHS tapes so they can toss those bulky tapes out.

Before you get rid of your tapes, check the DVD and computer files that replaced your tapes. Reputable video transfer service have quality checks when they transfer your old home movies, but you still want to make sure the DVDs or computer files work at home. You don’t want to find out those DVDs don’t work AFTER you discard your home movies.
Backup your DVDs or the portable hard drive your converted the VHS tapes to. In a sense, the old video tapes acted as a backup in case your DVD discs break or the hard drive crashes. But you won’t have that backup anymore if you throw them away.

When you are ready to dispose of your video tapes, you have several options:

1. Sort through your tapes for rarities, e.g. Gone with the Wind, Charlie Chaplin and put them on eBay or Amazon marketplace. You won’t find a big demand for them but the occasional collector do seek out these classics on tape for one reason or another.

2. Next stop is the nearby thrift store or local library. They may still take commercial tapes like Hollywood movies or how-to videos. You will be surprised how many senior citizens out there are still holding on to their VCR players.

3. Offer your VHS tapes to Freecycle and hope someone wants them.

4. At Recycle This, some suggested making scarecrows with the fluttering, black tape to scare birds out of your garden. The plastic housing can be tossed into your standard recycle bin.

5. If nobody wants your tapes, contact Green Disk. They will dispose of your outdated electronics including VHS tapes for $6.95 for a 30 pound box – that’s a lot of tapes.
Whatever you do, don’t just trash them and add to the landfill. The contents of CDs, DVDs, VHS and more can be toxic to the environment and the plastic casing can take hundreds of years to decompose.

“A good planet is hard to find” – motto from GreenDisk.

Photos to Digital – 5 Cool Things to Do with Your Photos

Here are 5 websites (3 of them free) where you can turn your photos into cool creations your friends and family will not believe you made yourself.

1. At Big Huge Labs there are a variety of different ways to take your photos and turn them into something extraordinary. You can add all kinds of effects to your photo, from changing it to black and white or by making it look like a photo sketch. One of the most unique features at this site are the different things that can be done to the photo beyond changing the effects. You can turn your photo into a customized jigsaw puzzle, put your photo on a badge that says FBI, or make trading cards with your photo on them to swap with your friends. Besides photo editing tools, Big Huge Labs offers other services such as a word processor, information about the World’s best cameras and a random photo generator of photos that other users have created. Best of all, it’s free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Animoto,another awesome free website, combines your memories into a video that will never be forgotten. At Animoto, you can combine photos and video clips into a beautifully made video with custom music and in a style of your choice. Now, in case you are not experienced with computers, don’t get overwhelmed, the process is very simple. Once your photos are digitized, all you have to do is upload the pictures to the website, choose a song to play through the video, and finally pick a style for the video. There are many styles, which can be anything from a simple black background to beautiful seasonal scenery. You can even add text to specific parts of your video in a customized font which can break the collage into categories, or add titles to your old photos and videos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. One of the most effective ways to improve a photo that you took is to crop it properly. At Cut My Pic, a free photo editing website, they have dedicated a site to that exact purpose. Cropping makes a regular photograph into something that looks professionally taken with perfect borders surrounding what is featured in the photo. It can make a photo that was taken by a child into something that could have been taken by a professional and is ready to be framed. Cut My Pic also offers other photo editing tools like corner rounding, tone changing, and adding drop shadows. There is even an app for it if you are an iPhone user!

 

 

 

 

 

4. Do you have old photos just laying around that you want to do something with? Or maybe you feel that a certain set of photos deserves a better home instead of a typical, boring photo album. With My Publisher, you can finally give these photos the attention that they deserve. You can take photos of your baby, or of a vacation you’ll never forget and publish them into a beautiful photo book that is customized to your style and preference. The best feature of the process that this website offers is how simple it is to create an impressive and long-lasting collection of your most important memories. Once you have digitized your photos, it’s up to you how you want them to appear in the book. You can add words and artwork, making certain pictures stand out in different ways. This service, although not free, is well worth the small price it takes to have your memories stored in a unique, organized, and breath-taking way.

 

5. Have you ever seen a life-size cutout of a popular movie star or pop culture icon? This is one of the many different services that Photo Cutouts offers. Cutouts are custom made photo sculptures created from a simple photograph. In additional to the commonly seen life-size cutout, you can make key chains, ornaments, magnets and even wall mounts from a portion of a photo such as someone’s face, or the entire photograph. The owner, Al, who has retired from 30 years as an IBM field service technician describes his business as an extreme photo service. He has a genuine love for photography and says that his cutout business feels like it’s not even work, it’s just plain fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no limits on what can be accomplished with your photos. You can crop them to make them look more professionally taken, add effects, create Christmas ornaments from them, make a slide show or a photo book. Many of these fun and amazing services are free to use, however the ones you pay for are definitely well worth the money!

8mm to DVD Transfer – 4 Questions for you

8mm to DVD transfer seems pretty straightforward. However, there are actually a number of options to think ahead before you show up at the film transfer lab.

1. Background music - Most 8mm film is silent. There are some Super 8 film with sound, but the VHS came out very soon after Super 8 sound film, so it’s quite uncommon to find film with sound. Many customers ask to put background music as they anticipate the stroll down memory lane. Still, some customers prefer the silence – more authentic. That’s how they remember watching the film decades back with their family – in silence.

2. Leader between reel - If your film are in 50-foot reels, which are about 3 inch in diameter, the reels will be spliced together into one big reel. That’s because each 50-foot reel is only 3 minutes in length, it is not practical to put each reel on a CD. The choice you need to make is if you want a leader between the reels when they are spliced together. A leader is about 5 seconds of whiteness that separates the individual reels. Some customers like the leader because it tells them when one reel ends and when the next reel starts. Some customers find it annoying that there’s 5 seconds of snow every 3 minutes. We recommend no leader.

3. Sequencing - How do you want your film sequenced? Because the film reels are spliced into one DVD, how the film is sequenced matters. For some of you lucky people whose parents or grandparents labelled the film reels with dates, take the time to sequence them by date so what you watch is chronological. If the film reels have no labels, look for clues – postage dates, etc.

4. Transfer to DVD or transfer to a portable hard drive? I’ve seen customers labor over this choice at length. Here’s the simple answer, if you only want to watch your film, choose DVD. If you have plans to edit your videos, choose the portable hard drive. Please consult this post for a more complete discussion on transferring to DVD or hard drive .

If you are not sure what’s on your 8mm film, call and reserve our film viewing station.

Photo Restoration

Here at Play it Again Video, a photo scanning lab in Newton, we have so much fun with our photo restoration service. It’s like magic how we can transform a stained, faded, ripped photo into a vibrant wedding couple again, or remove the yellowish tinge that coats old photos and make the faces pop up again. Then there’s the extra fun projects of restoring hair, taking off 30 lbs, or swapping heads. You know how you like the face in Picture A but like the body in Picture B, that’s swapping heads. We also alter history by adding an out-of-town Uncle in a family photo. After you’ve worked here a while, and helped customers with their photo restoration/alteration requests, you’ll never trust the photos you see at face value anymore. Ok, that’s beside the point, I digress, sorry.

My point is that, if your precious photo is ripped, or torn, or you spilled coffee on it, or someone folded a deep crease on it, don’t despair. We can make it like new again, examples below.


Photo Restoration - Age Stain
Photo Restoration Damage Stain
Photo Restoration Torn Ripped
Photo Restoration Add Color


Before you can restore your photos, you need to first turn your photo to a digital format. Click here for Photo Scanning Services in the Greater Boston area.